Location: Brisbane, Lucky Duck Café and Bar
In February, 21 members (15 women and 6 men) of the Brisbane C4D Chapter gathered to discuss the complexities of C4D evaluation. Dr June Lennie shared her learnings and experiences from the ‘Assessing communication for social change’ (AC4SC) project in Nepal and members enjoyed active discussion afterward.
The AC4SC project ran between 2007 and 2011, assessing the social impacts of two radio programs run by an NGO, Equal Access Nepal (EAN). Dr Lennie described how top-down, rigid evaluation processes are ineffective in measuring social change and, through discouraging participation and an understanding of the local context and process of change, even counterproductive. Participatory, mixed methods approaches are encouraged, with triangulation for validation of data.
Dr Lennie explained that the AC4SC project was not devoid of its own complexity and challenges. As well as the challenges of working in an under-developed, politically unstable country, it can be difficult to reach marginalised groups, both in C4D and in evaluation processes. It is also important to understand the culture of an organisation and for the organisation to appreciate the benefits of participatory evaluation, before it can be successfully introduced. A desirable outcome is when the organisation aims to continuously learn throughout an evaluation process.
Through discussion, members added their own reflections on challenges they have experienced in evaluating C4D. These included the increased time participatory evaluation takes (projects need to be longer) and the pressure placed on practitioners to show positive impacts and to provide quantitative, economic data to funding bodies.
We are fortunate that the AC4SC project expertly included an on-going meta-evaluation throughout the process, and has produced the ‘Equal Access Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Toolkit’ http://betterevaluation.org/toolkits/equal_access_participatory_monitoring. This toolkit is very practical, drawing on learnings from the project and responding to organisations’ concerns about the complexity of evaluating C4D. Dr Lennie also co-authored ‘Evaluating Communication for Development: A Framework for Social Change’ (Routledge, 2013) and generously gave away a copy to a lucky member on the night.
We are particularly grateful to Dr Lennie for sharing her experience and wisdom with us, as this may be the last presentation she gives of this type. We look forward to our continued relationship as Dr Lennie remains an active C4D Global Network member.